Thursday, October 16, 2014
We all wonder about when our number will be called. If we manage to avoid being road kill or involved in other untimely accidents that take our life, then how do we gauge how long we might expect to live?
By looking at our family history. The "crystal ball of probability" I call it. Unfortunately for me, my paternal grandparents were road kill in their early 50's, my maternal grandfather was shot in the war at a very young age and my maternal grandmother smoked her way to lung cancer.
When Dad turned 60-ish, things began to happen with himself and his six siblings. Heart valve issues from plaque, high lipid concerns, almost everyone had to have a bypass or two. Then in his seventies, his sister died of bowel cancer.
After Mom died from pancreatic cancer, I wondered about my having told my physician that no, cancer did not run in my family. It wasn't hereditary. But as I've learned, wait long enough and almost everyone will better their chance at getting their cancer lottery ticket called.
For me, this means that the system of comparing our life length with that of our parents is no longer a safe gauge.
Fifty percent of the people getting cancers today could not have prevented them, meaning a good portion are hereditary. Some families have long lineages of heart disease or cancer and so early detection and proper preventative measures should be taken without question.
But the other 50% need to understand that getting cancer is now more about lifestyle and what goes on and in your body. Don't think because cancer does not run in your family that you will avoid it. The toxins we apply between beauty products, cleaning products and sun tan booths, the air pollutants, the cigarette smoke. Additives in packaged foods mixed with high acidic red meat, sodas, too much alcohol, not enough good clean water: all these things accumulate your cancer lottery tickets until one day you discover the reason you have been so abysmally tired is due to a cancer growing inside of you.
I don't want that to happen to me again. After understanding that my breast cancer was highly avoidable had I drank more water and less wine, eaten more fish and chicken instead of red meat, taken up yoga for my stress, eaten more natural sweeteners than refined sugars, then I could have given my body a better fighting chance to battle the cancer when it started to take off with my life.
Thankfully, donations towards cancer research enabled the medical profession to discover the micro metastasis already detached from my breast tumor, heading off to infiltrate more of me. That had not been possible as early as one year prior to that find. So count me doubly fortunate.
But will YOU be so fortunate? Why take chances in a lottery that is guaranteed to reduce your length of stay on the top side of the grass?
Because Mom died of pancreatic cancer, something I still do not consider "herditary" in our family but a by-product of the canned soup, packaged sauce and meal era, I am trying hard to buy better all-natural products, drink no more than a couple of alcoholic drinks a MONTH, cut out the crap as much as possible (and still enjoy my life!), exercise more, use my aromatherapy stress-buster, eat more kale and drink more water, just so that I can still BEAT her 73 years.
My goal is 75. That might seem young, but given my toxic overload through CT Scans, chemotherapy and a penchant for cigarettes and 20-30 drinks a week for years, I figure that's a high bench mark.
Who do you want to beat and what are you doing to make that happen?
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
How about this one- a 59 year-old super healthy male had tests done in January from his not feeling good with pain in one certain area that was constant. While waiting for news, he turned yellow and lost a pile of weight he could ill afford. He did have an appointment to talk to a surgeon in Vancouver but he never made it that far. In mid May, a week before his appointment, he went to the hospital in excruciating pain, which once they got under control, his time ran out. His kidneys shut down. Within days we lost him. This was a man that would have been on the first plane to Mexico to be bombarded by every treatment available, but once the kidneys packed it in, we were told there was nothing to be done. I saw this man a week before he went in hospital. Knowing he was getting worse by the day, he said, "I don't know what to do? Have I a week,a month, a year to live? I don't know what to think anymore!"
The problem? He had put his entire faith in his doctor's hands. After the family requested a copy of the test results from January, the Doctor admitted he dropped the ball- he never read the test results about the liver cancer. The papers had been filed and never read again until the family requested them. A court case is pending.No shit!
Then there was the lady who was told repeatedly her stomach pain was nothing-, to continue with the antacids. After insisting on more tests, her wish was granted, albeit postponed a few times in a row. The results then sat on the doctor's desk for weeks while on his holidays. Upon his return, the lady was in hospital with pain too intense to ever get out again. Time wasted that might have been invaluable to her family.
How about this: A friend of mine waits over a year to see a specialist, gets the OK for the operation and while on the table, the anesthetist comments on her wait, "You should have complained harder." Really? Is that what we need to do? Become obnoxious whiners? Maybe make things out to be worse than they are to get ahead of the guy behind us? That's not slipping through a medical crack, but it shows you that there ARE serious issues in our medical overload.
Besides being overwhelmed with the baby boomers aging faster than bananas that have been frozen, our doctors are being top-loaded and inundated with a system already overtaxed.
Of course there are fail safes so that these things don't happen BUT, we're dealing with human error here and anything that gets overloaded will start to smoke under pressure.
So what can YOU do to make sure you don't fall into this chasm?
First off, when a doctor orders a test done on you, you have the right to receive a copy of the results. That means, after you have sat before the doctor who explains as best as she/he can in layman terms what it is you have and need, you can take that test copy home with you and have another chance to go over it. Lots of times a doctor will press you to make a decision based on test results while still in their office. Sometimes their opinion of what you should do might NOT be in your best interest. Maybe, say for breast cancer, instead of going through a lumpectomy to remove a small tumour, you might want to see about removing the entire breast instead of facing a possibility of a recurrence later down the road. For many of us, the thought that cancer may pop up again NEVER leaves your mind. Maybe you want a second opinion on how to handle the situation, possibly non-traditionally through naturalists/herbalists and other trained specialists. I wouldn't recommend that, but some people want to give it a try and it is their right to do so.
Second, know that your health is your responsibility, NOT your physician's. Giving yourself over completely to the care of your doctor is not your best move. You need to work with them, but not totally rely on one of the busiest people you may ever meet. Your doctor is possibly juggling dozens of people's charts, concerns, tests and results every day. See how you can get lost in that?
After seeing a patient, most doctors make notes in the patient's charts. But what if they get distracted, pulled away for a bit of time, maybe they have a crisis at home ... anything can happen.
What am I saying? Look out for yourself and your loved ones. Follow through on test appointments, ask questions about how long before you can expect calls and answers and then mark that on your calendar. Take notes while in a doctor's office. Use the phone and talk to receptionists at specialist's yourself. Find out how backed up a doctor is, if they received your paper work. Do what you need to do, but do NOT just sit there and wait for your doctor to come to your rescue. It may never happen.
And wouldn't that be sad, if you lost your life because of a crack in an over-loaded system. Maybe your name was misspelled or your file was buried in the wrong row. Possibly someone's dog ate it- (worked for me in Grade School)? You going to bet your life that no-one will make a mistake when it becomes your turn?
Guess what- it's only going to get worse! So get over it and get out there and squeak (nicely, please!)if you have to, just do what you can to help prevent slipping into the ever-widening chasm of today's medical world.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
When things are at their worst, it means they can only get better. Ain't no way but "up" from the bottom. Or so I tell myself.
If you are depressed, I strongly urge you to seek professional help. Your local Health Clinic can offer you more information in your area.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Friday, July 18, 2014
Thursday, June 19, 2014
The best news is it didn't hurt! There was no pain, no blood drawn, no contortoning my limbs into pretzel positions.
Being sent for a bone density scan can be as easy as going to the salon. Probably easier.
For me, getting to Prince George, a 3.5 hour drive down the highway, for the date I was given was the biggest issue. But here in the mighty north we have a solution called the Northern Health bus, where for the meager price of $10 one way, I was picked up, suitcase in hand, by the driver of a very large bus, complete with total wheel chair accessibility and gaped seating space and washroom, and left to sit back and enjoy someone else's driving down the highway.(www.northernhealth.ca or 1-888-647-4997)
What pleasure! I sat far enough back in the bus to not notice what was happening between the driver and the road. I pulled out my book, snuggled in and lost myself to someone else's world for a bit. A quick stop for another passenger (that made three of us) in Vanderhoof and we continued along, arriving in P.G. well ahead of the estimated four hour journey.
With the bus getting in at 7 pm, I had to overnight to make my appointment the following day at 11 am. This might be an issue with some, but there are hotels/motels in PG that will give you a medical discount for the asking.. And there's always the new Canadian Cancer Society's Kordyban Lodge that will take cancer related guests for $45 a night and non cancer related guests for $55 a night, three meals included.(Call them for info and reservations at 250-562-3535)
I was fortunate to stay with family overnight.
So, refreshed and full from an amazing power shake my sister-in-law made, I arrived at the University Hospital of Northern BC. A volunteer in a pink jacket pointed upstairs, explaining the X Ray department was that way and down the corridor.
I arrived at the X Ray department and took a number where once called, I was checked-in and handed a form to give up at my next stop which was further down the same hallway.
Because I had a zipper in my pants, I was given a pair of flannel shorts to change into before being ushered into a darkened, small bedroom-sized exam room. I sat on the paper-lined stretcher/bed and answered questions about whether I had abstained from consuming extra calcium tablets before this exam as I'd been told.
I was then weighed and measured for height, an important step as you will soon see.
After lying down on the padded slab, a large cloth-covered box was placed beneath my knees, probably to force my spine further into the slab? A large white curved-headed machine came to life and like a scanner on a printer, it whirred as it moved slowly along the direction of my torso from my knees to my belly button. The head itself was a good foot and a half away from my body. No enclosure like in an MRI or something surrounding you like in a CT scan.
The process was repeated with the box removed and my legs lying flat in a divider to space my legs a certain distance apart.
Easy, peasie, possibly more so because this was my second bone density scan. I had one two years ago to set "a marker" or a base for doctors to go by while I am on the cancer adjuvant therapy Letrazole. Letrazole is an anti-estrogen pill that can mess with your chances of osteoporosis and should be monitored for this.
I took a minute to discuss what the tech immediately could see from the results on her computer screen. A four cm change in my height kind of shocked me a bit. I am no longer the 5'7 I have bragged about. I am a shorter 5'6 and change and going down. When did that happen?
So when I turned 40 and then 50 there was more to complain about than just memory, hearing and energy loss. I am the Shrinking Woman. Now what would be the positive spin for this?All I can think of is losing my hard earned privilege of riding the bumper cars at the Fall Fair. You have to be taller than the sign to get on!
Positive. Positive. Give me a minute, I'm still thinking...
Nope, maybe YOU can tell me what is positive about getting smaller? Alice in Wonderland found it handy. Surely we can too?
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
I have been on the post cancer treatment drugs of Tamoxifen and now Letrizole for three years now and I must tell you that the intensity of the hot flashes and the aching joints DOES wane. Either that or I don't notice them as much? No, I am sure they are less frequent and less intense. I also know what brings them on, like drinking hot beverages, red wine, spicy foods and stress. So sometimes I know when I am going to get one but do it to myself anyways. Sometimes it's worth it.
A hot flash acts like a choke collar for me. If my temper starts to rise, my heart speeds up, my face goes purple and water descends down from arm pits, my back, my neck, my brow. The act of trying to cool myself down before brain matter is boiled always defuses the stressful situation. At that moment I only want to survive the heat. Thank good ness my children have grown up. Now if I could get my husband to do things more my way, we could lessen the fanning.
But back to the boobs! My recon started with an expander on my right side to make room for the permanent silicone bag that would fill out my chest to past measurements. The left side was surgically gathered and raised, reducing it's size only marginally to resemble the right one. My scars have healed around the left nipple, cut so close to the darker brown line as to be almost invisible. All that remains is a slight pink line beneath the breast from the nipple to the chest.Two inches. It's nothing! The right side looks like I have a bruise which will possibly fade with more time.
The side of my chest where the lymph node surgery was done is still tight and felt with every movement of my right arm.It doesn't stop me from using it, especially where there is good food involved.I don't jig for halibut anymore though.
To sum things up, if you are sitting on the fence about whether or not to endure yet another surgery, I highly recommend you think about how wonderful it would feel to thumb your nose at your cancer and say, Ha! You didn't ruin MY life. I got my body back, better than ever. I have before and after pictures that are amazing! We're talking about changing zucchinis to grapefruits again.
Breast recon isn't for everyone. For me, it made a huge difference in my morale, self-confidence, and determination to keep the newly adjusted ones from ever getting operated on again.
Methods are changing for the better. There is less downtime, better results.Check into it. You can always decide NOT to do it once you hear all the facts.It's your body and your time.
Please send me a note if you want to know more about my experience with this.
Monday, June 9, 2014
We decorated and spread shirts across the Survivor Registration and greeting station where people who have been through or are going through cancer get their special yellow shirts. They are encouraged to draw the outline of their hand on a banner, inside of which they will put how many years they have been cancer free and their name. The banner will later be walked around the track carried by and followed by the survivors. It's a powerful moment as people clap and cheer as we walk .
The first time I joined the survivors, I found this unnerving but now I receive it with honour as I know I am doing what I can to help others prevent a tangle with cancer. Hugs and applause are always welcome in my life.
After a quick bite of fruit and vegis, I set-up and manned the Prevention Table where I talked to people about the ten tips I promote on lessening cancer lottery tickets. I had samples of products one can reach for to lessen toxins, to use inside and outside their bodies to hopefully discourage a cancer growth. Things like vitamin D supplements, anti-oxidants like blueberries and ground flax seeds, using good oils instead of animal fats.
The following is an excerpt from the end part of my luminary speech :
Tonight we light luminaries for those who's lights have gone out. We rekindle their memory with our flames and give them a moment of our silence. But we should also give these people our promise. That we will start looking after ourselves much better in their honour. Let them know that their passing from cancer has taught us a valuable lesson. That we will try harder to stay alive. To not take good health for granted.And that we will set a better example for those coming up behind us. For our children and the survivors of the future. So please think about this as you walk this last lap around the track in honour of those lights who are once again shining. The candles last mere minutes but our missing loved ones and the names of those currently fighting will live on forever in our hearts.
The moment was once again so emotional for me that I might have mentioned I will do what I can to get Houston relaying again in the summer of 2015.
It's never too late to give to the Canadian Cancer Society who does so many great things for anyone dealing with this disease. See their website at www.canadiancancersociety.ca.
Friday, May 23, 2014
It's the beginning of the growth cycle which starts the filling of our freezer with our own harvested organic food, fresh from local forests. Like an Easter egg hunt, it's fun, great exercise and other than your time and possibly gas for your vehicle, it's free food for your fridge and freezer.
What am I talking about? Fiddleheads and morel mushrooms, of course.
In Canada's coastal provinces such as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to the Pacific Coast of British Columbia, Mother's Day signals it's time to start checking any flooded areas for the first signs of a non-flowering wild fern called fiddleheads. These natural perennial and delicious vegetables grow up from the ground as spores rather than from seeds and boast about 10,000 variations.
WHAT DO THEY TASTE LIKE? With the outer part being firm and green, a fiddlehead at first bite tastes like asparagus, but then the inside has a softer leafy fern, so you will notice a following consistency of broccoli tops. Excellent when cooked, drained and tossed with a bit of lemon or vinegar. Pre-boil, rinse well and use in other dishes like casseroles, soups and stir-frys. Endless uses for this spring-must that is higher in anti-oxidants than blueberries!
WHAT DO I LOOK FOR? As they rise from their base or their "clump" fiddleheads are tightly coiled, closely resembling the ends of a fiddle. With the type that is best to eat, both sides of the coiled fern have a covering of light, rusty brown rice-paper (NOT black) like skin that as the fern uncurls, falls off. It is rumoured that hummingbirds like to use this dried fabric as lining for their nests.
NOW WHAT DO I DO?When picking, we take the time to flick the exterior red fluff off before putting the fiddlehead in our bucket as it makes for much easier cleaning when the day is done.
Once thoroughly rinsed at least three times in cold running water to separate any leftover fluff from the greens, fiddleheads must be boiled in a pot of water(to get them clean enough to eat) for at least three to fifteen minutes, depending on your taste for crunchy or soft vegetables. Rinse well before eating.
It is the tightly coiled fronds that you want to pick for eating. It is best to pick them before their stalks are barely out of the earth. That way they will be nice and firm and will keep for weeks in the fridge.
Black morels (which appear first) tend to be more exclusively in hardwood forests, but not around any particular type of tree. Finding them is often like a connect-the-dots game. When you find one, be still and look nearby. When the spores that created the morel you just picked were jettisoned years ago, there likely was a wind pattern that blew the spores in a particular path. There may have been a nutrient source or environment (soil type, moisture, pH, etc.) that was conducive for growth. Look for the patterns.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
It doesn't matter that Houston won't be hosting a Cancer Relay this year. I am counting on the fact that Houston still wants to support the Canadian Cancer Society because cancer doesn't stop for anyone or anything.
This year an expected 30,000 PLUS BC people will go down this terrifying road. How did we get to the day when those kinds of numbers started? And more important, what can we do to get that number down?
We obviously need to learn more about what promotes cancer to grow and take off with your life. We need to educate everyone on the simple ways that they can help themselves to lessen their chance of getting cancers and we need more research into how to stop cancer for good. All of that takes money.
We have come a long way from the days of bloodletting to cure ailments. We now know how dangerous smoking and second-hand smoke is. How pesticides and toxins in our beauty products and in the foods we eat and the air and water can harm us. Studies have shown that indoor tanning before the age of 35 raises the risk of melanoma by 75 per cent! Who knew that ten years ago?
If you do get diagnosed with cancer, the CCS is there for you almost instantly. You are supplied with a wealth of pamphlets, numbers to call, people to see to get you through. Dietitians, physio therapists, support groups,mental therapy. It's all available. You're in good hands. But again: it takes money to pay for this spectacular world of assistance. That money comes from these important fundraisers, the largest being the Relay for Life.
Get your friends together and get a team started. Let's make Houston a presence at the Smithers Relay this June 7 from 10-10 at the (previous) Chandler School outdoor field. A fabulous view of the mountain tops, close to downtown, walking distance to Safeway for lattes and grapes.
This year's focus is petitioning for the ban of Flavoured Tobacco. And promoting your ONE THING you will vow to do to become more pro-active about your cancer prevention.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks everyone.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
It was four years ago when I was cancer-naive. Yes, there are still people out there that know nothing about how cancer works; about what you can do to up your chances of avoiding the disease.
The Canadian Cancer Society recognizes that almost 50 % of new cancer diagnosis are caused by
And what is YOUR lifestyle like? If you're maintaining a healthy body weight by getting lots of exercise, eating well with lots of fruits and vegetables, drinking good water instead of too much alcohol or sugary options and have lessened your toxins, number one by becoming a non-smoker or avoiding second-hand smoke, then you have GREATLY REDUCED your chance of winning that cancer lottery!
Add 1000 mg minimum of Vitamin D supplements, boost your immune system with weapons like organic blueberries, ground flax seed, decaf green tea, kale and other green leafy vegetables and take up a stress release like Yoga, swimming, meditation or getting enough sleep and you're even MORE protected from that devastating tap on the shoulder that says, "You're next."
Trust me. You do NOT want to end up with the Frankenstein body parts. You do NOT want to experience a day with chemo chemicals rattling around your brain, you do NOT want to lay half-naked on a steel slab while a stranger lines up the blue tattoo on your breast with the radiation co-ordinates. You will regret having to spend the rest of your life worrying cancer will return.
You have alternatives.You can shape up your life right now. Tighten that anti-cancer belt even more.
If you are of the 30% who are pre-disposed to getting cancer, you have the advantage of keeping your thumb on any possible run-aways, until its detection. That's where a regular check-up with your family doctor comes in.And a tumour that only had the chance to grow to 1 cm has a much better chance of being survived than one that is 4cm.
Is it sinking in yet? Or will you continue to sink?
I chose to swim instead of sink because I'm not going down again without a better fight. This time, one in my favour.
Pass the brocolli please.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Well in the beginning, Pagans were more common than Christians. The Pagans celebrated the Spring and the regrowth of all living things with the eggs as a symbol of fertility and the rabbit, known for it's ability to rapidly populate. This was called Easter ( from the goddess Ishtar or another theory from the Saxon's Mother goddess Eostre or from the Latin word for spring "eastre".)
The Christians wanted to find a way to encourage the Pagans to sign up so they melded Easter with the resurrection of Christ, as it too was a celebration of new life and rebirth of all things.
And what better way to celebrate anything but with chocolate? Someone even suggested it was because Christ's last dessert was chocolate.( You can find ANYthing on the Internet). Who am I to disagree? I LOVE that part. If it was all about hard-boiled eggs I don't think we could count as many kids in on the celebrating.
For me it's all about spreading the joy of the beginning of Spring and all that it means to our surroundings. It's the start of mating season for many species, as seen by the squirrels chasing each other in pairs across the snow. The first poke of green noticed in the dry flower bed in the front yard. The deer trying to nibble off any sign of vegetation on the tips of our lilac bush. And the excuse to cram my maw full of candy Easter eggs.
My hunt starts in the stores, trying to find eggs made of a high percentage of dark chocolate. Not an easy task. But after finding some, I put them around the house. Then I enjoy finding them for weeks to come after forgetting where they are.
But the BEST part about my Easter is when my gal pal Sandi and I dress up as ski bunnies and hit the slopes with our baskets of goodies for everyone. Giving is so way much more fun than receiving! The looks on the kid's faces as we bend down to hand them a treat. Priceless. Picture it: Sandi's bunny ears tilting backwards from the wind as we shoosh down the slopes, chocolate eggs bouncing from our baskets as we hunt down the deserving and the undeserving alike. It's Easter. EVERYone deserves a bite of heaven.
Amen to that!
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
So what is it?
feeding people for 200-500